Can’t Get Past my First Love

I am trying, I am trying, I am trying to keep up with technology.  This goes about as well as my repeated oaths to eat more vegetables, something I pursue with grim determination and lots of Hollandaise sauce.  This is good for me!  I need to do it!  Forget about enjoyment and joie de vivre– just do it!

With technology, I do what everybody of my generation seems to do: I think my own level of involvement with the high-tech world is just perfect — just enough without overdoing it.  So, I’m a bit impatient with people my age who don’t slavishly devote their lives to email or troll the Internet or use cell phones in the limited way I do.  Don’t they know what century this is?  Don’t they know the world’s going to leave them behind if they don’t get online regularly?

“What kind of moron doesn’t know how to text?” my friend Stephanie snapped when I was in Dallas.  “I mean, how hard is it?”

I was, of course, exactly the kind of moron who vaguely knew how to text, but did it rarely.  (That tiny keyboard!  I had to find my reading glasses!  I kept making stupid typos!)  What’s so wrong with calling people, instead, I kept wondering.

But, after a few days of extreme social pressure from my friends Stephanie and Maria and the realization they’d think I was a low-tech loser if I didn’t text, I kind of got into it.  The minute I began texting regularly, of course, I began to feel sorry for anybody my age who couldn’t get it together to thumb a few messages every day.  How sad was that?

The point, obviously, is to try to make yourself do something till you feel comfortable about it.  But God, getting comfortable is so hard and — let’s be honest — I hate change.  All of which brings me to the Kindle.

I have a Kindle.  I bought it on an impulse in May, when we were still in New York and about to begin traveling.  I didn’t have the upper-body strength to schlep around all the books I wanted to read.  A Kindle, light and portable and versatile, was the answer.  Besides, it would show people how with-it I was.  To prepare myself for this big change, I’d already read every book I’d recently bought.  No excuses!

The day after the Kindle arrived — looking compact and easy to operate — my father died.  I knew what I needed.  I needed to go to the bookstore and buy some novels.  I needed something I could hold on to and cling to.  Books have always served that purpose for me.  They comfort me and make me feel safe.  At a time like that, I wasn’t going to bother arguing with myself; I also didn’t have the energy to learn to operate a new appliance, no matter how simple.  So I went to the bookstore and came home with an armful of books.  When I wasn’t collapsing on the couch, staring at re-runs of the first season of The Sopranos, I was reading.  I left the Kindle, still partly packaged, in the kitchen where it couldn’t stare at me reprovingly.

It’s been six weeks since then.  I haven’t bought any more books, but I stayed with friends who kept pushing hardbacks they’d read in my direction.  Who was I to disappoint them?

The Kindle sits — patiently?  impatiently?  it’s hard to tell.  I know I need to leap the divide and rid myself of my unwieldy, old-fashioned dependence on books.  I know that, once I get used to it, I will love the Kindle with its high-tech ease.  I know, I know, I know.  But in the meantime, my arms only reach out so far and there always seems to be an inviting, unread book within reach. The Kindle is newer, glitzier, modern, but, even after all these centuries, it’s still Johannes Gutenberg who has my heart.

(Copyright 2010 by Ruth Pennebaker)

Read one of my favorite posts about how to spend your day not writing: a tried and true method

24 comments… add one
  • Cindy A Link

    I bought a Kindle for my 12-year-old daughter for Christmas and it is her constant companion, like some kind of accessory.  I haven’t taken the leap and bought one for myself, but if I go back to Europe, I will.  She carries 30 books around with her in that light little thing attached to the end of her arm, and it sure looks inviting.  For now, like you, I’ll read the pile of books always beside my bed.

    Actually, now that I think of it, would a Kindle work in Europe?!

  • I text because it is the easiest way to stay on top of where my kids are and what they’re doing! I don’t text anyone else. I have a Kindle. It’s great for traveling, but when push comes to shove, I would rather hold a book.

  • ruthpennebaker Link

    I think the new version works in Europe, Cindy.

    Brette, that’s my fallback position, too: Great for travel.

  • Hmmmmm. A Kindle; I’m not so sure. Books feel so good in the hands, like holding on to a good friend. I love the pages, the cover (they’re so gorgeous these days, no?), the satisfaction of finishing a book and putting it down on the table, or back on the shelf.
    I am a text-er though; learned it from my daughter. While I sent/rec’d 600 texts last month, she had 6000!  That, I think, is way over the top. That’s 200 a day. Oy.

  • It took me quite a while to “get” texting, I admit. But now I have a credible claim to the title of fastest thumb in the West. (Only one thumb, mind you, because I text on an iPhone.) And I am so impatient with friends and acquaintances of my age who resolutely refuse to get with the program and start emailing and surfing the interwebz. To me, they’re like the illiterates of yore, who depended on the village scribe to write their letters.
    I’m not interested in a Kindle, because its use is fairly limited here in Canada. I yearn for an iPad, but (for the first time in my life, I might add) I am waiting for some of the bugs to be fixed before I get one. I will still buy books, because I love the feel and the smell and everything to do with books. But I am hoping I will be able to dump my many hard copy magazine and newspaper subscriptions, and subscribe for their online versions via the iPad.
    For travel, an e-reader is a no-brainer, not just for reading purposes, but also in place of guide-books. When we travelled in Europe in 2006, I carted a case-load of guide-books with us. They were jettisoned as we moved along, a frightful waste of money and paper.

  • I have never sent a text message.  Never felt it made sense.  By Golly, If I’m holding a phone in my hand then make a call and TALK!  That’s enough of a stretch in communication tech for me, as I’ve never been a big fan of Alexander Graham Bell anyhow.

    During the period after my mother died, two aunts became especially caught up in trying to tend to my life.  The opportunity to emote a lá Ma Kettle overwhelmed them.  I did not need the hassle.  I wanted to be left alone, like Garbo.  I chose to ignore door bells and telephone bells.

    By and by, two police officers appeared on my front porch and commenced pounding on on my door.  I observed them via a crack between window blind slats, their squad cars flashing blue at the curb.   As I held no particular beef with cops, I slid the chain in place on the door, opened it a bit, and inquired of the two officers the purpose of  their visit.  They said they were to escort me downtown.  I suggested that I did not wish to accompany them anywhere.  One officer produced a paper and passed it through to me via the crack in the door.  It revealed that they had permission to break down my door and take me by force if necessary.  As the image of splintered wood always discolors my mood perceptively, I chose to depart with the men.  Out in the yard, under the large shade tree, stood my two aunts, assorted cousins, various nosy neighbors and a few curious passers by.  It was like the scene in Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte with the townspeople gathered on the front lawn gawking as Charlotte Hollis is escorted from her home by the sheriff.

    The gentlemen in blue drove me to the mental health center and escorted me into the office of Dr. Tishman, who happened to be a fellow member of the local writers’ group.  He cordially invited me to sit and explained to me that some of my relatives were concerned that I did not answer doorbells or take phone calls, and were worried that I was lying dead– or worse– inside my home. I told Dr. Tishman that my two aunts had become morbidly occupied with my well-being since my mother’s death, therefore I had deliberately chosen to ignore the ringing of doorbells and telephone bells, and asked him if it was illegal to do so.  Dr. Tishman said that unscheduled visitors and phone calls may be considered an invasion of privacy and relinquishing said privacy was NOT obligatory.  He rose, shook my hand, said, “See you Monday Night.  I look forward to hearing you read aloud your latest endeavors.”  Dr. Tishman then opened the door, signaled to the officers standing in the hallway, and commanded, “Take this man HOME, where he belongs!”

    I later received a letter from one of my aunts.  It consisted of a solitary line:

    Sorry, but we HAD to know.

    I responded with a solitary line on the same page of stationery:

    And thank you for making me the star topic of conversation around every breakfast table in my neighborhood.

  • ruthpennebaker Link

    Wonderful story, Winston.  I often wonder why you don’t have your own blog.  Are you still in the writers’ group?

  • Ruth, in fact, I have most tentatively begun a blog.  This comments section has a field for entering a website, where I have listed the URL.  Does that info not show up at your end?  The writers’ group is currently on hiatus.

  • ruthpennebaker Link

    I don’t see it.  Can you put it in the body of the comment?  I’m not the only one who’d be interested in reading it.

  • How weird that your blog solicits info that not even you can see.
    Here is the URL:

  • Count me in on being hard to change my ways, too. No Kindle (yet). I can’t seem to give up books, even though I have no room left on my shelves and they end up sitting in piles on the floor. Texting? I do it with hesitance, but hey, I have to keep up SOMEHOW, right?

  • I’m sure one day I’ll give in and buy and ipad or a kindle or a nook, but I looooooove books in paper form. I also love magazines and newspapers in paper form.

  • Oh, dear, I don’t think I could take a kindle into the bath.  That’s the trouble.

  • Cindy A Link

    Goodness gracious, Winston.  I’m afraid I would have joined your fretful aunts in worrying about you.  Guess the silver lining is that it made for a darned good story!

  • Cindy A,
    After 17 years of being my mother’s right arm and 5 of those years as her caregiver, it was tooooo smothering for others to want to tell me what to do and want to suddenly meddle in of all  the minutia of my daily existence.

  • Oh, and regarding Ruth’s plunge into the world of Kindle, For those of you who don’t want to invest big bucks in a Kindle machine just yet, may I recommend what I use: Kindle for PC.  It’s a free software download from It enables me to access and use all Kindlized reading material on my laptop.  Handy for reading in bed– where I do most reading anyway, and the laptop is very portable as well.  I do champion the low cost of Kindle publications vs. hardback printings.

  • I have always been vehemently opposed to the Kindle.  But, the other day I saw a book on an Ipad and thought I want one now!!!

  • Whilst I love holding a book, the idea of a my whole library at my fingertips is more than alluring. Sadly, Kindles have not yet made it to New Zealand- probably due to the bend-me-over data charges we have in this country. But one day!

  • I relate. I love love love my iPod but, well, forget to use it kind of often. I love it when I use it, tell myself to use it more, but then forget.

  • I’ve been reading books on the iPad and I love it. I never thought I’d say this, but now I am disappointed when a book is only available in paper.

  • I just moved and had to laugh at myself trying to sort through books I was going to take–and those I was going to donate. I just couldn’t part with very many, even though I haven’t picked them up in years.
    That said, I’m getting a little tired of moving books. I wonder if I had an iPad if I’d feel like Alisa…

  • Susan Link

    I’m not much for texting either, but it can be handy if you’re in an area that has spotty reception or it’s too noisy to carry on a conversation. Although my boyfriend wanted to buy me a nook for Christmas (similar to the Kindle but in color), I told him I prefer the tactile sensation of real books. Maybe someday I’ll convert, but I still love books in their traditional format.

  • I am actually reading all my books these days on the iPhone with the Stanza and Amazon Kindle apps. It is wonderful! And I was able to download hundreds of free books (classics, which I’d never had the time to read) for my four-month trek through Mexico.  The iPhone is now my GPS, my calculator, email, eReader, iPod, audio recorder during interviews and while driving, notebook for quick notes during tours and interviews, compass, stock price checker, calendar, twitter interface, hotel finder, alarm clock….I could go on, but you get the idea. It has seriously cut down on all the weight I used to lug around on my long-term trips. Really, crack open the Kindle and use it -myou will never go back. I am selling all my books!

  • Barbara, goodness, how do you remember which combination of buttons to push to transform that iPhone into 147 useful gadgets?  I’d have to lug around a “cheat sheet” that would weigh more than my old Royal typewriter.  Uh… You remember those?

Leave a Comment